This originally appeared in Box + Papers, the tracking bulletin of GQ staff Cam Wolf. For more stories like that, hit the link and subscribe.
Holy Grail see It’s a bit like presidents: usually the older the person, the more silver the person, the more historic one wins. This makes the neoclassical Rolex Daytona with Zenith caliber, at 34 ripe old, practically a star. But this particular model, born in 1988 in Geneva to beloved parents (Rolex’s Daytona and Zenith’s El Primero movements), despite its age, is rapidly becoming a star.
Zenith Daytona (temporarily referred to as ZD) is a representative of the neoclassical movement, referring to pieces produced in the 80s and 90s that are not exactly classical but also not modern. For a generation of fans who grew up in the ’90s and are now becoming their own collectors, neoclassical watches happen to be something they grew up with and love. “Tomorrow’s consumers won’t get the appreciation that older collectors have given them [watches made before the late ‘80s]”Tim Bender, one of ZD’s biggest fans, said You know the story, and owner of Fog City Vintage.
Bender references what John Mayer said Hodinkee Once, about our idea of what it means to create it guides what we buy. Those symbols of success get calcified at a young age, and we spend the rest of our lives chasing those badges of success. That’s why Jacek Kozubek, one of ZD’s biggest fans, The guy who knowsand owner of Tropical Watch, says he currently sells more neoclassical watches than anything else.
More and more people are starting to collect, says Kozubek, and many of them are starting with the neoclassical style. “It’s easier to consider something $7,000 from the 90s than buying something from the 70s that costs $30,000,” says Kozubek. “It’s simply easier: easier to buy, easier to maintain, less money to spend, great.” Kozubek goes on to call the ZD the Goldilocks of watches: it has the good looks and signs of aging that classics love with the durability and wearability that comes with modern pieces. Of course, given the way the watch market works, ZD isn’t easy to come by anymore: Bender and Kozubek each say they sell about 4 to 5 coins a month for up to $40,000 (as long as the box and paper are still available. sheet).
To give birth to the ZD, Rolex introduced (and heavily modified) Zenith’s El Primero caliber, powering the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. That modified movement was incorporated into Rolex’s first automatic Daytona. That means in layman’s terms the Daytona no longer needs to be wound on a daily basis. “It becomes a usable watch,” says Kozubek.
However, ZD is far from a nepo baby. It has a masculine and sturdy look. One of its defining features is a quirky detail: the “reverse 6,” an upside-down 6 on the sub-dial located at the bottom of the ZD face. (This detail only appears on versions produced between the ’88 and the early ’90s.) Both Bender and Kozubek point to the ZD’s brushed case and lugs, compared to the polished versions on modern Daytonas. Kozubek argues that it makes “a very, very, very big difference in the feel of the watch. The newly polished watches look elegant and classy, but the ZD’s polished look is sporty—exactly the feel of an old Rolex.
But the ZD’s real appeal can be traced back to the way it baffles collectors. Back in the 90s, when “without Google, without Twitter, without Instagram, you could do everything without an iPhone and looking at the screen. People will actually talk to each other,” said Kozubek. “You put the watch on and it makes you feel like the 90s.” For many ZD fans, like Kozubek, that alone is worth the admission.